London-based HIT Entertainment has just raised a whopping US$25.5 million by selling freshly issued shares, and plans to sink over three-quarters of the cash into new animation productions. Existing shareholders snapped up 3.26 million new shares through the rights issue, increasing the number of ordinary shares to 17.92 million. This followed news that the fiscal year ending July 31 saw HIT’s pre-tax profits go up 55% to US$3.9 million on a turnover of US$23 million, up 15% from last year.
The new funds won’t be burning a hole in the company’s pockets though: HIT has already designated the cash for several new shows and additional episode blocks. These include three new 13 x 10-minute blocks to add to the three existing blocks for Kipper; a second 26 x 12-minute block for Anthony Ant; a second 13 x 10-minute block for Percy the Park Keeper and a new four x 26-minute series still under negotiation called Angelina Ballerina. Some of the funds will also be used to acquire complementary rights for the shows and for the production of several of the following projects recently announced by HIT.
Budgeted at US$1.3 million, the 13 x 10-minute series Bob the Builder is one of the first productions coming out of HIT’s new in-house studio, HOT Animation. It uses bold colors, simple models and classic stories to appeal to preschoolers, while building on their enduring fascination with dump trucks, cranes and bulldozers. HIT just announced that a second 13 x 10-minute series will follow. Both are set to air on the BBC.
Aimed at kids five to 10, Sheeep is a 13 x 10-minute series based on Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing by Japanese artist Satoshi Kitamura. The 2-D cel series was animated by Grand Slamm Children’s Films with a budget of US$1.97 million. The show follows the lives of three sheep whose placid lives are disrupted by mysteries and showdowns with cunning wolves.
Fairies, a 72-minute special for kids ages six and up, is being produced in consultation with world fairy lore expert Dr. Juliette Wood. The special brings fairies, shapeshifters and brownies to life in the Devon, England countryside of the 1940s. Budgeted at US$2.5 million, Fairies is being animated using 2-D cel and models at the Cartwyn Cymru studio, and will air on the U.K.’s ITV.
Archibald the Koala, a co-production with Paris-based Millimages, follows the adventures of the fuzzy super-sleuth as he investigates strange clues and circumstances that abound on the wacky island of Rastepappe. This series brings the sophisticated European style of French artist Paul Cox to a 26 x 15-minute 2-D cel animated series. Produced with a US$3.8 million budget, Archibald is targeted to kids ages five to eight. As with the rest of HIT’s new offerings, the show is also available in the U.S. 30-minute format.
In other HIT news, the U.K. company has worldwide distribution rights to Lavender Castle, the latest project from Thunderbirds creator Gerry Anderson. Budgeted at US$3 million, the Cosgrove Hall-animated series for kids ages seven to 11 will be broadcast in the U.K. on ITV starting in January. Available as either 26 x 10-minutes or 13 x 30-minutes, Lavender Castle is a collaboration between Anderson and executive producer Craig Hemmings of Carrington Productions International. Anderson took the concept, which is based on an original idea from illustrator Rodney Matthews, and devised the production process. The series tells the story of a floating city inhabited by a motley crew of characters, each with a different accent (so it doesn’t sound too Brit), who travel through space fighting evil. Andersen, who had just finished Space Precinct when Carrington approached him to return to kids as producer for Lavender Castle, hopes to do 100 episodes, as well as a feature film and a book series (which he will write) based on the project. A two-year production undertaking, the series was in development for eight (each animator does 15 seconds a day).